LONDON (ICIS)--Current social distancing measures make impossible to organise EPCA’s annual convention, which represents the industry group's key revenue stream, and if the current situation persists it would need to consider alternative income channels, its CEO said to ICIS.
Although the physical annual event in October has been cancelled, EPCA’s intention is to continue bringing together European petrochemicals players through an application and virtual events coinciding with the dates for the annual event, initially planned for October in Budapest.
EPCA’s CEO Caroline Ciuciu also said the group intends to continue organising face-to-face gatherings, perhaps on a smaller scale, when social distancing measures allow it.
It is the first time that EPCA’s flagship event has been cancelled, in what would have been its 54th edition; Ciuciu conceded that it would be impossible to make predictions about the 2021 annual meeting given the reigning uncertainty brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.
“If the current social distancing measures last in time, EPCA would have to reassess its business model and seek additional revenues. That’s part of what we are planning to do together with the board of directors, where the issue has already been debated and will be explored further in the coming months,” said Ciuciu.
“We could run paying webinars, for example. But I believe we will still meet in person, face-to-face interactions will remain key, but maybe we will organise hybrid events with fewer physical attendees and more virtual participation. We may have to re-balance our business model using technologies that have become crucial for all of us.”
However, Ciuciu wanted to highlight how EPCA is “not only an event organiser” and while the annual meeting “remains our flagship event” is not the group’s only remit.
EPCA annual event in October gathers 2,500 registered delegates – figures for the 2019 edition in Berlin – and many more thousands take part unregistered.
A key feature of the event is the networking that takes place on the sidelines, where European and global petrochemicals players discuss the industry or close deals for the following months and quarters.
“It’s important to underline this [the annual events not being EPCA’s only remit]. EPCA is also an organisation whose purpose is to provide its members with support and activities that underpins their sustainable development,” said Ciuciu.
“We have discussed this with the Board of Directors and we agreed we should develop the two pillars of this organisation – the annual event and other activities, smaller events supporting our members.”
Ciuciu recognised that a key feature of the annual events was the vibrant atmosphere of face-to-face meetings among industry participants.
She said that energy would be difficult to replace in any case, and that is why EPCA will continue exploring opportunities to bring people together both physically and virtually.
Given the importance of virtual events, even before the pandemic, Ciuciu said EPCA will have from 1 August a dedicated employee undertaking marketing and digital communications assignments.
This would be the ninth employee to join the industry group; the CEO said there are no plans to reduce the workforce in any department.
“The current and extraordinary uncertainty makes it impossible to predict what 2021 will bring. For sure, technology will continue to play a key role,” said Ciuciu.
“We will continue offering new opportunities to our members and that’s why we have recruited a marketing and digital communications manager who will join us in early August.”
The conferences sector has been badly hit by the pandemic as it involves both close physical interaction and, normally, air travel, two of the industries which were hit early by coronavirus and which may take the longest to recover.
EPCA said in May that it was cancelling its annual meeting, after several other conferences within the petrochemicals industry were cancelled in Asia and the Americas.
However, some conference organisers are pulling through and, by October, Germany’s Fakuma trade fair, which focuses on the plastics industry, is going ahead.
“It’s a question of parameters, the fundamentals of the conference. EPCA’s Annual Meeting is a global meeting, with guests from all continents and we want to be inclusive,” said Ciuciu when asked why the EPCA physical meeting could not also go ahead.
“If we can’t run an event for everyone, at least this year, a transitional year, we think it’s better to offer a virtual alternative to all delegates.”
Ciuciu went on to present the EPCA Community App, which is already available on its website and which, lacking a physical event, EPCA is hopeful will contribute to the debate this year.
“[The aim of the app] is to foster the community spirit – we may not be meeting in person this year, unfortunately that cannot be done, but that doesn’t mean we cannot be connected, that we cannot share experiences,” said Ciuciu.
She concluded by encouraging all industry participants to send feedback and suggestions to EPCA so more ideas can be developed during the rest of 2020 to keep the industry in contact.
Front page picture source: EPCA
Interview article by Jonathan Lopez